The blues: Kenyans take issue with new police uniform

Friday September 14 2018

Some described it as an “extreme makeover” when President Kenyatta unveiled the new uniforms for General Duty Police Officers as he sought to revamp the police service on Thursday.

But is it?

Many Kenyans don’t think so, with some describing it bluntly as “very ugly”.

“These uniforms are the ugliest ever!!! Will this reform police from corruption? @UKenyatta should instead think of better ways of driving this beautiful nation of ours,” Dennis Mutai, an investment risk management adviser, tweeted on Friday.


Some argue the new uniform is not a priority and that budget should have been spent on more pressing needs like poor salaries and poor working conditions. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Paul Mwariri returned a similar verdict after he compared the Persian-blue gear with the old ones navy blue trousers, white shirts/blouses, navy blue jackets and berets.


“Very very ugly! The old one was much better! There are many other things that need to be changed in the police...uniform is not one of them!” he shot, a feeling shared by Victor Mzolex.

“Our initial uniform is fantastic, commanding and illustrates fitness. This has (a)Ugandan flag, looks like ya kanjo, now you cannot differentiate between a police officer and a salvation army band member.”

Many said they were used to the white shirts/blouses and navy blue trousers and jackets that General Duty Police Officers, a new branch of Kenya Police, used to wear.


The Kenya Police uniform that the General Duty Police Officers will drop. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

For Nicholas Amokoh, “too many” pockets are the biggest problem with the new uniform.

He believes these ‘bags’ will not help the corruption problem in the police force.

The Kenya Police has for the past four years topped Transparency International's corruption perception index despite efforts to stop the vice.

“These uniform has numerous pockets. Blazer has four, trouser has four too, now they easily subsidies upper wings for coins and lower wing for notes, Kenya tulikosea wapi?” he posted.


Do police really need new uniforms? Some Kenyans have asked. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Former Agriculture Minister Kipruto arap Kirwa shared Mr Amokoh’s view, saying he wished the pockets were smaller.

“It is good for policemen to look good. However, the public ought to have been involved in deciding the new police uniform. I feel the pockets should even be smaller,” he said.

But for others, like Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr, colours and pockets are not an issue.

Their concern is the resources that will be spent on a new police wardrobe, which they feel should have been put to better use.

“The new police uniform reminds me of the biblical story of new wine in old wine skins! Police are poorly paid & live in deplorable conditions... if you ask them for their views , uniform will not be in top ten need list,” he tweeted.


What are the many pockets for? And why are they big? Corruption? Some have asked. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

That budget, Mr Agrippah Odhiambo said, should have been used to improve police salaries and their housing and working conditions.

“Kenyans will never cease to amaze me. Having a new type of uniform without changing their mentality will not be of any value to Kenyans. Kenyans need reforms in service. How  much money was spent on all these BTW? Ksh5 billion?” he said.

The uniforms are made by the National Youth Service as part of the government's efforts to revamp cotton farming and the apparel industry.

But some Kenyans and leaders, including government critics such as former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale, said the new attire is a plus for the force that maintains internal security and order.

Mr Khalwale said the new uniform will change the attitude of law enforcement officers.

“Congratulations @UKenyatta/@JBoinnet for this new Kenya Police uniform. It is cool. Hope the officers will wear it with a new attitude in law enforcement.”


Some critics preferred direct messages to Mr Kenyatta. PHOTO | COURTESY | TWITTER

The Kenyans praising the new outfit like the former senator, however, were few and far apart in Twitter and Facebook conversations.

The criticism was intense and widespread, even crossing Kenyan borders.


Tanzanians online, for instance, had a field day on Thursday poking fun at Kenyans after Mr Kenyatta unveiled the new uniform.

It all started when BBC Swahili asked its followers to comment on the new uniforms with a majority of those commenting being Tanzanians.

They made fun of not only the colour but also the design of the jackets, whose large pockets, they said, were ideal for stashing cash collected from bribes.

Some, however, said the most important thing was for the Kenya Police officers to work professionally and diligently, irrespective of the new uniform.


Some Tanzanians say the new uniform is only fit for stocky officers. PHOTO | COURTESY | TWITTER

Here are some of the comments from Tanzanians:

Dickshop Sitiphin commented, “Sale nzuli tu shida mazoezi hakuna. Sasa wote wanaonekana vitambi.”

John S M Mgejwa questioned, “Mbona zina mifuko mikubwa? Wana maana gani? Mifuko inachochea rushwa!!”

Additional reporting by Evelyne Musambi.